Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive] has been charged with murder [press release, in Ukrainian] for her role in the contract-style killing of Yevhen Shcherban and two others in 1996, Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka [official profile, in Ukrainian] said Friday. Pshonka alleges that Tymoshenko and former prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko [JURIST news archive] ordered the murder of Shcherban, who was shot to death in an airport in 1996. Tymoshenko has previously claimed that the prosecution is "looking for a scapegoat" [press release], and her lawyers have accused the prosecution of fabricating charges [press release] to keep Tymoshenko imprisoned. Tymoshenko has already been sentenced to seven years [JURIST report] in prison on corruption charges and is currently awaiting trial for charges of tax evasion [JURIST report]. That trial has been postponed multiple times since it began in April.
The trials against the former Ukrainian prime minister have sparked international criticism. In September the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official website] unanimously passed [JURIST report] a resolution [text] calling for Ukraine to release Tymoshenko from prison. It condemned current Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych [official website] for his role in the allegedly politically motivated imprisonment. In August the Ukrainian Supreme Court [official website, in Ukrainian] upheld Tymoshenko's abuse of office conviction [JURIST report]. During the appeal the government denied allegations that the criminal proceedings against Tymoshenko were a measure initiated by Yanukovich to prevent her from participating in the October elections. The decision came only a day after the European Court of Human Rights [official website] held a hearing [JURIST report] on Tymoshenko's appeal. Also in August Ukrainian prosecutors urged the Supreme Court not to hear her appeal [JURIST report]. Prosecutors told the court that Tymoshenko's trial had already established her guilt in the case, and asked the judges maintain her seven-year sentence [JURIST report] in the case.